Gen Z has been called the ‘experience generation’, with its consumers increasingly spending time and money on ticketed live experiences – both planned in advance and as a spontaneous purchase.
Empowering users to discover and book tickets through the same websites they already use creates a more convenient, personalised experience. The dominant ticket sellers of the future will be the online brands that consumers have already made part of their lifestyle across social media and apps, travel and e-commerce.
And that’s where Coras comes in.
Coras enables customers to buy tickets they want through sites they already use
Coras connects to multiple ticketing software systems of suppliers like theatres, attractions and sports teams, and aggregates the inventory of their clients, which is then available via a single connection. Distribution partners across travel, e-commerce and social media can plug into that connection so that they can offer tickets as a new product category to their customers.
According to Coras CEO, Mark McLaughlin: “As consumers spend more money on experiences and events over things, the biggest online brands will want to have that transactional relationship with their customers,” he says. “There wasn’t a single source of the world’s inventory through one single API connection, so that’s what we wanted to build.
“Subsequently, Coras has a single API that connects to millions of tickets in 40 countries and 180 cities. A distribution partner can choose to integrate with the Coras API to enable customers to purchase within their site – or there is also a white label solution.
“We believe that wherever there is a potential customer online, the tickets they want should be available to them – and Coras opens up ticket purchase opportunities through multiple channels, in a way that responds to a customer’s lifestyle.”
Building a scalable business
Since its inception three years ago, McLaughlin has seen the fledgling business thrive and succeed within an international market, and attributes this to both the customer and development teams responsible for delivering the product.
“The key driver for research, development and innovation is a collaborative process between our clients and our vision for how we want the product to develop,” he says. “This drives the roadmap.
“We have a technology-focused product, which we hope is appreciated by the partners we integrate with and those who integrate with us. Our first three live partners are on three different continents and this is something we hope will demonstrate how scalable the product is.”
Support to grow
The CEO comments that financial help and advisory support have also played a big role in establishing and growing the business.
“We are a HPSU (High Potential Start-Up) company and Enterprise Ireland (the trade and innovation agency) invested in our seed round back in 2016,” he says. “This was very welcome and we are now tapping into Enterprise Ireland‘s network in the US and Asia, which is very helpful. It can be very beneficial to have a reputable partner like Enterprise Ireland vouch for you to get deals done. “
McLaughlin says the sector is currently focused heavily on B2C brands that are using ‘tens of millions of dollars’ to drive sales but Coras believes the focus will shift to B2B technology, which is where it operates.
“We are pure B2B and don’t have any secondary business products,” he says. “Our focus is on having the easiest API to integrate with, and the best real-time ticketing inventory available.”
He believes that there are great opportunities for future development.
“It’s a $150 billion product category, and our view is that the biggest online brands in the world will become increasingly active in this space, so we’ve hardly scratched the surface of what potential there is,” he says. “We hope to take advantage of these opportunities by focusing on the product we build.”
All roads lead to Ireland later this month when industry experts and senior executives from some of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers and suppliers gather for the world’s first transatlantic forum on future mobility.
Representatives from Toyota, Daimler, Jaguar Land Rover, Honda, Mazda, Volkswagen, Faraday Future, Bosch, Hitachi, Continental and Verizon will be among those attending CASE: Driving the Future on October 23 and 24. Hosted by Enterprise Ireland, the event will showcase the latest capability and disruptive trends in connected, autonomous, shared and electrified vehicle development.
Ireland might not seem the most likely setting for such an event – there are, after all, no Irish auto manufacturers or major assembly plants – yet driven by its strong tech sector, Ireland is fast becoming a go-to technology hub for the global automotive industry.
At CASE: Driving the Future, Irish companies at the vanguard of this sector will showcase the strategies they are using to develop innovative solutions for the automotive industry, while participants will also have opportunities to expand their network and meet more than 30 industry leaders from the United States, Germany and United Arab Emirates.
Day one of the forum at Dublin’s Convention Centre will feature keynote speeches and thought leadership sessions from industry experts covering a range of CASE topics.
Gahl Berkooz, VP of Data, Analytics, and Monetization at ZF Group, will talk about how data monetization and digital transformation can drive CASE. David O’Donnell, Global Head of Passenger and Light Truck Tires at Continental AG, will address how CASE technology can be applied to fleet management solutions. Frank Weith, Director of Connected and Mobility Services at Volkswagen AG, will speak about next generation connected services in the US; and John Cormican, VP Engineering Jaguar Land Rover Ireland, will talk about the role played by connected, autonomous vehicles in enabling the digital transformation of Ireland.
Supply Chain Tectonics
There will be two executive panel discussions, the first on the realities of risk and regulation, and the second on how CASE disruption is impacting on the supply chain tectonics of automotive manufacturers.
Capability is king in this industry and forming strategic partnerships and demonstrating an ability to innovate while solving exacting problems has provided many Irish companies with the opportunity to grow quickly.
Irish Capability in Future Mobility
Breakout sessions will provide opportunities for one-to-one meetings with more than 25 leading Enterprise Ireland-supported Irish technology companies. Several of these will also showcase their capability during Enterprise Ireland client company pitches.
One of them is software manufacturer Emdalo Technologies, whose artificial intelligence (AI)-based object and gesture recognition systems are providing solutions for powering the capability of autonomous and driver assistance systems in boats as well as cars.
Barry Napier, CEO of Cubic Telecom, will demonstrate how his company’s global connectivity platform allows more than 2.5 million drivers across 180 countries to enjoy internet capability, while also enabling manufacturers such as Audi, Skoda and VW to collect data on vehicle performance.
Ronan Quinlan will explain how leading car makers can network their vehicles with the outside world using cutting-edge antenna and radio frequency solutions for Internet of Things (IoT) applications produced by his company Taoglas.
Centre of Excellence
The highlight of day two at CASE: Driving the Future is a visit to the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) Global Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) Centre of Excellence, which opened in Shannon earlier this year.
Major auto manufacturers are investing in the capability of Ireland’s technology sector and both JLR and the French vehicle technology multinational Valeo are at the heart of an Enterprise Ireland-led cluster, which includes more than 70 indigenous companies involved in autonomous vehicle research and product development in the West of Ireland.
As well as Enterprise Ireland, the cluster, CAV Ireland (Connected and Autonomous Vehicles), is backed by IDA Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, the Department of Transport, and the Lero research institute.
The future of mobility is one of connected, autonomous, shared and electric vehicles. It is as much about software as hardware, and at CASE: Driving the Future, industry leaders and experts will shed light on the opportunities that this presents.
Ryan J Shaughnessy, SVP Industrial Technology for Enterprise Ireland Chicago, said: “Ireland is quickly becoming a technology hub for the future vehicle. This is due to a combination of top Irish tech talent and an increasing global demand from automotive companies for new technology solutions.
“Many of the 70-plus Irish automotive tech companies supported by Enterprise Ireland are already doing business with major OEMs and tier one suppliers across the globe.
“CASE: Driving the Future is an opportunity to showcase Irish technology to a large global automotive audience for the first time and further establish Ireland as the new go-to destination for automotive technology solutions.”
CASE: Driving the Future consists of a conference day at The Convention Centre Dublin on October 23rd, followed by a visit to JLR’s Centre of Excellence in Shannon on October 24th. Click here to register.
Over the last seven years, Kitman Labs has fundamentally changed how the sports industry uses data to improve performance. Now it’s working with some of Japan’s biggest teams.
Established in 2012 by Stephen Smith, Kitman Labs is an Irish sportstech company that has become the leading performance and health analytics provider to the world sports industry.
Smith, a former injury rehabilitation and conditioning coach for Leinster Rugby, developed a performance and data analytics system that combines training, game and medical information, all of which had previously been managed separately at the Irish club.
The power to combine analysis from these areas has enabled clients to increase athlete availability and boost team performance, giving the industry an innovative new solution for improving the likelihood of sporting success.
Innovation drives Kitman Labs to the top of sportstech
“We were always very focused on innovation,” says Smith, explaining how, before the launch of Kitman Labs, no system in the sector combined medical and performance data to deliver more powerful insights.
Smith notes that the global market is still fragmented: “Some companies collect athletes’ data, some provide performance analytics or medical information, but no one combines all three.”
The product’s potential was clear from the beginning, and the company signed its first client, Everton FC, the UK football club, in 2014. Their first US contract was signed the following year, after the company raised investment in the US to fund further growth.
Today, Kitman Labs is used by 250 teams, covering sports from Mixed Martial Arts to rugby, and from soccer to baseball. The product has been translated into 29 languages and sells across all five continents, while the company has offices in Dublin, Silicon Valley, and Sydney.
41 sporting leagues now use Kitman Labs including the English Premier League, the National Football League, the Bundesliga, and Premiership Rugby.
Kitman Labs wins in Japan
The company is now focused on expanding its presence in Japan, as it has grown significantly in the Asia Pacific region, counting clients in China, New Zealand, and Australia. Smith describes Kitman Labs’s entry into the market: “Initially we had interest from Toyota Verblitz, the rugby team in Japan’s Top League, as they had seen coverage of Kitman Labs in the media and made contact with us.”
In 2018, Smith came to Japan to speak at the Sports Tech Tokyo conference. From that trip, he secured two new clients: the NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes rugby team and Yokohama BayStars baseball team.
NTT DoCoMo chose Kitman Labs’s Athlete Optimisation System in order to enhance its performance and medical programmes. The system aims to reduce days lost to injury, lessen the chance of severe injuries, and results in fewer season-ending injuries. It does so by issuing individual alerts in real time, which supports managers and coaches to make informed decisions based on data analysis.
Government backing for Kitman Labs
Enterprise Ireland, the Government’s trade and innovation agency, has supported Kitman Labs, which Smith describes as a “game changer” for the company.
As for the immediate future, Japan continues to be a highly significant market for them, with Smith describing important opportunities in the areas of insurance, corporate health and digital health. “There is no other country on earth which offers the same level of opportunity from a corporate health perspective,” he concludes.
Dublin’s importance as a global hub for business is increasing significantly, according to a highly regarded annual report by leading management consulting company AT Kearney. The 2019 Global Cities Report indicated that while New York, London and Paris remain the world’s most competitive cities, their dominance is being increasingly challenged by advances across Europe, Asia and the Middle East – and made special mention of the impressive progress made by Dublin.
The Global Cities Report ranks the world’s major cities on their attractiveness for businesses and employees, It includes the Global Cities Outlook Index, which ranks cities primed to be the next generation of global hubs. Dublin featured highly in 2019’s Outlook Index, jumping a huge 24 places to ninth position, behind London, Singapore, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Paris, Tokyo, Boston and Munich.
“The Irish city’s impressive performance is spurred by big gains in economics and innovation, reflecting Dublin’s rise as a global tech destination and its prospects for the future,” commented the report on Dublin’s meteoric rise.
Dublin increased its position significantly in every metric: personal wellbeing, economics, innovation and government. In particular, the city jumped 33 places in the economics metric, to fifth place in the index.
“We view Dublin’s strong performance in the 2019 AT Kearney rankings as validating the commercial trends we can see on the ground,” said James Croke, a development advisor for BPO and IT Services at Enterprise Ireland, the trade and innovation agency. “Enterprise Ireland-backed companies in the ICT, fintech and services sectors, who invest in innovation and technological capability are continuing to accelerate their international growth. Underpinning this technical capability is Ireland’s innovative, well-educated and technically agile workforce.”
The yearly report reveals which cities are currently the most competitive in several key areas, including business activity, culture, human capital, political engagement and information exchange. These are recognised as the factors that have turned cities such as San Francisco, London and New York into bustling global hubs that attract people and businesses.
Dublin looks to the future
While the Global Cities Index reflects the current performance of major cities, the Outlook reveals which cities are primed to be the next generation of global hubs. This year, despite uncertainty regarding Brexit, London’s steady performance brings it to the top of the Global Cities Outlook, up from third in 2018.
Although performance across leading European cities has stalled, an exception is Dublin, indicating that Ireland is becoming a popular choice for international business partners. The report concluded that up-and-coming cities should look to encourage the development of human capital. Dublin’s big jump in the Outlook proves that the city is on the right track.
According to IBM, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. Given that a quintillion is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, it’s fair to say that’s a lot of data.
This includes everything from humble tweets, google searches and web browsing, through to challenging unstructured data sources, such as corporate emails and files – the type of data that can’t be easily searched or managed. While much of this data can be considered ephemera, much of it is also highly valuable – and fraught with risk.
Our online and cloud interactions with customers, clients, employees, and partners are producing data sets containing corporate and personal information. Emails and files contain vast amounts of corporate intelligence, not only in their contents, much of which is commercially sensitive, but in the meta of the email communication pattern itself.
But without proper indexing, those data sets are left siloed across a company’s network, and without secure storage and compliance, firms are vulnerable to a host of regulatory and privacy issues. With GDPR now firmly in place, stiff penalties await firms without a handle on how it is managed.
Waterford Technologies’ Irish Advantage
It has been this perfect storm that has driven Irish firm Waterford Technologies to develop its product suite, which tackles this mass of unstructured data and makes sense of it for clients.
Founded in 2000, the company has seen seismic shifts in corporate data use, not least in the move to cloud computing, but has kept its MailMeter and SISCIN (email and file) products at its core. Like many Irish tech firms, it looks beyond the island’s shores, operating in its key US and Eurozone markets.
Lorcan Kennedy, the firm’s Chief Commercial Officer, said that having the firm start its journey in Ireland gave it not only the key advantage of accessing highly skilled and educated employees but something equally as valuable thanks to Ireland’s business culture – close client relationships.
These relationships have proved valuable to the firm, not least because dialogue between clients and prospective customers actually helped the firm to pivot its product to suit what clients needed, said Kennedy.
He said: “Irish business in general is very supportive to start-ups. Some of our early customers really became not only customers but mentors to us. They helped us articulate the problems, they helped critique our solutions and they helped guide our solutions. Being based in such a small country meant we could hop in a car and go and meet them two or three times a week, if necessary, and this was invaluable to us.
This working relationship helped the evolution of the product roadmap.
“MailMeter is built on the premise that organisations have a huge amount of unstructured data in their email systems.
“When we went to a company and asked a simple set of questions, such as who is your biggest user, who’s communicating with your customers or your competitors, what kind of data is leaving your organisation, and by and large they were not able to answer,” said Kennedy.
“And it is important that those questions are answered and that is how our product was developed, bringing valuable unstructured data to light.”
Waterford Technologies’ ComplyKey is not only able to securely archive a company’s email and network files but also to index it and make it searchable including attachments of any type.
The benefits are many: not only are network infrastructure resources freed up across an organisation but in sorting the data companies can build robust audit trails on that data, opening up new areas of business intelligence and analytics to meeting compliance requirements for GDPR or Freedom of Information requests.
How Waterford Technologies helped BAM Ireland
Having an encrypted email data archive that is fully searchable has many boons for MailMeter users. Construction group, BAM Ireland, was an early adopter of Waterford Technologies’ MailMeter, and subsequently, ComplyKey.
While there are obvious and immediate benefits to archiving email for the IT network capacity, the indexing proved a key tool for the firm, said BAM’s Global Director of IT Services, Tim McCarthy.
Construction projects invariably will see variations to specifications once live and keeping a definitive unalterable record of who said what to whom and when is vital, said McCarthy.
“The reason we chose a tool like MailMeter is that a lot of our business is based around being able to prove the facts of a discussion or a conversation.”
“From a pure IT perspective, we have a clean data environment and an environment that cannot be tampered with by individual users and it gives us great comfort knowing it is there and cannot be tampered with.” Only those with administrative rights can manipulate the data for GDPR motives such as tag, delete, apply retention policies, legal hold, or access block capabilities to relevant data.
It may be hard to quantify the direct cost savings to a firm such as BAM, which handles six million emails a year and has archived 47 million with MailMeter, but it is clear that it gives McCarthy one thing – peace of mind.
“We’ve never lost an email – ever,” he said.
Bright ideas may come in a flash of inspiration but bringing them to market takes time. Ask any founder with an innovative idea and the story will usually be the same – a long journey that includes setbacks and pivots.
That journey requires resilience and a culture that fosters and supports innovators and disruptors so that they can bring strong ideas to market. While not all good ideas make for good business models, without an innovation ecosystem in which ideas can flourish, the chances of a new solution making it to market can be slim.
Ireland has a world-leading reputation for innovation, which is respected internationally in areas as diverse as medtech, fintech, and agritech. In medtech alone, Ireland has become a global hub. It is home to some of the world’s most ambitious and dynamic medtech companies, a trusted and advanced manufacturing base, and 18 of the world’s top 25 medical device manufacturers. Hubs and knowledge clusters have grown up organically around the supply chain, notably in the cities of Galway and Cork, over the last 15 years.
How Ireland finds commercial applications for cutting-edge research
Enterprise Ireland, the country’s trade and innovation agency, provides a Commercialisation Fund that supports the creation of technology-based start-up companies, and the transfer of innovations developed in Ireland’s Higher Education Institutes and other research organisations to industry, as well as grant, seed and venture capital funding, and direct assistance through networking and mentoring.
Unlocking innovation at the earliest stage has seen Enterprise Ireland and Ireland’s universities and colleges partner in innovative ways, to not only unlock R&D but to centre it on a pathway to commercialising new products, services and companies.
By 2007, the Irish Government had funding in place to enable knowledge transfer at third-level institutions to partner with business. Since 2013, Knowledge Transfer Ireland has acted as the hub for this ecosystem supported by some €52m in state funding in its first three years alone.
University College Dublin was one of the first universities to realise the value of innovation and the commercial value of intellectual property created by research within its walls. As early as 2003, it opened its own centre for innovation and knowledge transfer by partnering with private sector sponsors such as Xilinx, Ericsson, AIB, Arthur Cox, and Enterprise Ireland.
It created NovaUCD as its own incubator, and current Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation Tom Flanagan called the decision to back early-stage innovation one of “incredible foresight”.
“The intent was to coalesce out of research opportunities innovations that could be commercial and build new start-ups around them.”
Now in its second decade, NovaUCD has seen real results. From its bespoke building on campus it has supported around 360 start-ups and early-stage ventures, which have raised around €760 million in venture capital funding, delivering jobs and exports across a range of disciplines, including data and analytics, cleantech, personal medicine, and cancer screening.
As a typical hub, NovaUCD is a physical home to start-ups, mentors, investors as well as key personnel who drill down early on into research to identify prospects and valuable IP.
“We have many programmes to capture this knowledge even at undergraduate level,” said Flanagan.
The hub supports knowledge transfer in pragmatic ways, such as market research, prototype and product testing, to help hone product fit and bootstrap the business.
“The innovation space is a great space to be in. It’s a great opportunity to witness the birth of something new and the opportunity to shape it for commercial success.” The entrepreneurs that work out of NovaUCD have had notable success but that is no surprise to Flanagan.
“The companies that start here all have global ambitions. They are high potential start-ups. The companies that bring in the inward capital are what I would call ‘rockets’, ones that are on the fast track to high growth. That would not be unusual.” That includes the likes of energy efficiency company Vivid Edge, Output Sports, which is developing sports performance analytics wearables, and Manna, which is planning to deploy custom-developed aerospace grade drones to deliver fast food to consumers’ homes, he added.
The global ambition of all of these companies that are harnessed by the innovation ecosystem across Ireland is clear. Meanwhile, NovaUCD continues its own expansion with its newly renovated and extended eastern courtyard allowing it to increase its capacity to house start-ups by over 50%.
Incubation and innovation will continue, according to Flanagan, with the rewards being real recognition of Ireland’s role as an innovation nation. “It’s a real joy to meet researchers, smart people who are onto something, and when you look at their work you realise ‘That could be something. They are onto something, something big.’’”
Something big, for Ireland and the world, indeed.
The Irish aviation industry inspires a new energy efficiency funding model for multinationals.
“If you think about the energy sector in general,” says Cartier Women’s Initiative Award finalist, entrepreneur Tracy O’Rourke, “you’ve got the traditional fossil fuels, and then you have renewables – and that sector is actually quite well evolved. There’s a lot of investment and research going in there and it’s very mature. But then there’s the third area, which is energy efficiency — really, that should be done first.”
The 2015 Paris Agreement marked a breakthrough for climate change mitigation on a global scale, setting ambitious and binding targets for carbon reduction. “Climate change is now,” says O’Rourke, “it’s centre stage.” According to the International Energy Agency, efficient energy use would deliver more than 40% of the carbon reductions pledged in the agreement.
These savings are sometimes missed by companies, because the required technological measures demand a significant amount of initial funding — funding that could be used to grow a business in other ways, but “as my business partner, Paul, says, ‘It’s like filling a bucket that’s full of holes – you really should fix the holes first.’”
Tracy founded Vivid Edge and brought on board financing expert Eimear Cahalin and energy efficiency expert Paul Boylan. Together they set out to help businesses ‘fix the holes’ faster, through a self-funding energy efficiency service.
Impact of NovaUCD and Enterprise Ireland
All three had previously held leading positions in large multinationals and moved to the start-up’s headquarters in NovaUCD, a purpose-built, state-of-the-art incubation facility for knowledge-intensive companies at University College Dublin, which is supported by Enterprise Ireland, the trade and innovation agency.
“I think success comes from the environment you put yourself in,” says O’Rourke, “And I think it was particularly important to be somewhere like this. Most of the people in my world thought I’d lost the plot, going from a great position in a large multinational to a small start-up. But there’s an energy and a vibrancy here that is just terrific.”
NovaUCD client companies are given access to a network of researchers, business leaders and investors, and are provided with a comprehensive business support programme. This year, the facility will be increasing its capacity by over 50%.
Socially responsible business
O’Rourke was once a commercial director in the aircraft leasing industry. “The younger me wasn’t remotely interested in social purpose,” she admits, “but later I realised I wanted to do something that would contribute and help socially — and that doesn’t need to compete with the commercial purpose.”
With financial rewards directly aligned to sustainable development, an energy efficiency initiative is a perfect example of a socially responsible enterprise. O’Rourke believed that she could bring something new to the sector, using what she had learned from her background in financial services and the Irish aviation industry.
Ireland has a unique relationship with airline leasing. In the 1970s, it became one of the first to use the model and remains a major and experienced player in the industry. “I thought, ‘I wonder could you use the principles behind that model and tailor it to the energy efficiency sector?’”
The answer was yes.
Vivid Edge offers simplicity, expertise and reach
Vivid Edge uses their own capital to completely upgrade the buildings of large multinationals. For a 5- to 10-year period their client pays a monthly fee that is “more than covered” by their energy savings.
The approach differs from traditional energy service contracting, in that it is both a pared back model, and a more thorough upgrade, covering the entire portfolio of a company. “We feel that in traditional energy performance contracting, the supplier is trying to guarantee too much — things that are out of the supplier’s control. We look after everything that is in our control, the actual performance of the machinery.”
Because Vivid Edge is independent of any supplier, the team is in a position to conduct an impartial review of technical solutions, chosen equipment, and supplier promises. As an energy expert with an engineering background, Boylan brings a tremendous level of technical expertise to the project.
Success has been staggering. For example in one project, Vivid Edge has helped a large telecommunications client to reduce their lighting energy consumption by 82% — enough to power 450 family homes.
O’Rourke has just returned from the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards in San Francisco, the culmination of a 12–week coaching programme for finalists.
“The last week was supposed to be for helping you prepare your business plan and your financial plan,” explains O’Rourke. Having secured €30 million from a European fund, and a multi-million euro revenue stream from its completed projects, Vivid Edge already has a proven track record of very effective fundraising.
“So I talked to Cartier. I said, I’d like a coach who will stretch how I think – really challenge me and really help challenge how we engage with large multinationals. We know we have something that’s different already, but we want to take it to the next level. The real difference comes out when organisations embrace cross-border, that’s when the strength of Vivid Edge really shows. Already, we’ve moved with our customers and suppliers from Ireland into opportunities in several countries in mainland Europe and UK, on into Dubai and Egypt. Our ambition is to engage expanding clients and follow their carbon footprints into Europe and beyond.”
“This is exciting” says Tracy. “We’re building a successful international business through helping large organisations reduce their carbon footprint and improve our planet for the next generation.”
Scientific research in the area of deeptech is increasingly driving success for top fintech companies.
Deeptech is the term applied to technologies that result from the commercial application of cutting-edge scientific research. They are the technologies that create radically new solutions, the kind that can upend existing products, processes and even markets.
It is little wonder then that deep technology, the kind that emerges from scientific breakthroughs, is now driving innovation in Ireland’s fintech sector.
Ireland is an established fintech hub. It’s also a country where government policy actively supports the fostering of links between industry and academia.
What deeptech offers top fintech companies
Right now deeptech such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning are being used to drive business performance and to create and capture new commercial opportunities across a range of sectors.
But deeptech is having particular resonance for top fintech companies, as both new and existing financial services players respond to the challenges and opportunities emerging from the increased digitisation of banking, the advent of new payment platforms and ever-changing compliance requirements.
Fintech is an area in which Ireland excels
“Ireland is really good at fintech. Enterprise Ireland [the trade and innovation agency] has a really strong portfolio of top fintech companies in this space and, indeed, is one of the largest investors in fintech start-ups in the world,” says Eoin Fitzgerald, Enterprise Ireland’s senior advisor for fintech.
Enterprise Ireland has invested in over 80 fintech start-ups since 2014. Its portfolio of more than 200 financial services and fintech clients generated over €1 billion in revenue in 2017.
“Ireland is now showing strength in deeptech for the same reasons that it developed its strength in fintech – because it has both a strong international financial services sector and a strong technology sector,” he says.
Ireland is the fourth-largest exporter of financial services in the EU. More than 250 of the world’s leading financial services firms operate in the country. Almost half of all global hedge fund assets are serviced from Ireland.
It is also home to the operations of nine of the world’s top 10 technology companies, including Facebook, Google and Amazon.
But while Ireland plays host to the world’s leading technology and financial services companies, none of them competes for customers there, a fact that has allowed for an extraordinary culture of collaboration to grow here.
Research excellence driving deeptech developments
This culture extends to the third and perhaps most important driver of Ireland’s strength in deeptech – its strong academic research base.
“Ireland’s most successful deeptech start-ups are either university spin-outs or are created through the commercialisation of the really good fundamental research being carried out here,” says Fitzgerald.
Right now much of this academic research is going into fintech, an area that enjoys enormous support in Ireland.
This was evidenced most recently by the announcement that ADAPT, the Science Foundation Ireland centre for research in digital content, has launched a new financial technology research programme, called Fintech Fusion.
The four-year programme is headquartered at Trinity College Dublin. It involves researchers from Ireland’s Insight Centre for Data Analytics, itself a joint initiative between researchers at Dublin City University, NUI Galway, University College Cork, and University College Dublin. It also involves researchers from Lero, the Irish Software Research Centre.
FinTech Fusion is supported by such partners as Ireland’s Industrial Development Authority, the Fintech and Payments Association of Ireland, Insurance Ireland, and Columbia University.
Its researchers are working with more than a dozen companies to drive breakthroughs in payments, regulation and insurance technologies. The goal is to create fintech innovations with the potential to impact economies, markets, companies, and individuals.
It’s just one example of the way in which Ireland’s collaborative culture is enabling deeptech to drive fintech innovation.
Enterprise Ireland supports fintechs
Enterprise Ireland is to the fore in this process, having recently launched a major new fund to support those fintech and deeptech start-ups that it believes has the capacity to succeed in global markets, in a bid to further innovation in the area.
The new fund is aimed at companies working in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented and virtual reality, the internet of things (IoT), and blockchain, with a view to helping them achieve key technical and commercial milestones.
It was launched by Ireland’s Minister of State for Financial Services, Michael D’Arcy TD, who affirmed that “developing and supporting the fintech sector is a national priority”.
All this work to support the commercialisation of research is coming to fruition through the success of Enterprise Ireland’s deeptech clients.
“There is a lot of innovation going on, a lot of really interesting technologies emerging and a lot of really good research being commercialised,” says Fitzgerald.
This includes the success of award-winning start-up RecommenderX, who uses machine learning to guide enterprise teams to better data-driven decision-making, and which has worked with companies such as Mastercard.
It includes start-ups such as DataChemist, a Trinity College Dublin spin-out that helps organisations to find new insights that up until now were hidden in their existing data. It is currently building enterprise knowledge graphs for some of Europe’s largest financial organisations.
It also includes groundbreaking companies such as AID:Tech, who uses a combination of blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning to create a decentralised digital identity platform that empowers people to manage their own data securely and privately.
AID:Tech pioneered the delivery of international aid using blockchain technology, doing so first for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, on behalf of the Irish Red Cross.
Today it brings transparency to the distribution of aid, welfare, remittances and donations around the world, being nominated as one of Europe’s 100 Digital Champions by the Financial Times in the process.
It’s just one of a growing number of Irish fintech start-ups that have been sparked into life by scientific breakthroughs. It’s also just one more example of how, in Ireland, fintech’s foundations run deep.
Starting and growing a company during a worldwide recession is not easy but they say that all successful entrepreneurs have one thing in common – grit and determination. This grit is something that Pat King and Brendan Griffin, co-founders of OneLook Systems, have in spades. Not to mention a great product that solves a real problem, a focus on customer satisfaction that has paid off massively, and good support when they most needed it.
OneLook Systems offers an innovative software solution to managing contractor compliance at all stages of the contractor journey, and now counts such massive names as Google, Diageo, Stryker, Johnson & Johnson, Baxter, GSK, AbbVie, Heineken, Kerry Foods and Nestlé among its worldwide clients. From modest beginnings in Cork in Ireland in 2008, with a couple of local customers during the recession, this has been quite a journey for the co-founders.
Like many other successful start-ups, the basis for OneLook was finding a solution for a problem. “Brendan and I worked in pharmaceuticals, and we always noticed a huge line of contractors outside the Facility Manager’s office, to get their Permit to Work forms filled out and stamped,” explains Pat. “No worker could start onsite until these permits, which covered things like permissions and health and safety regulations, were issued. The whole process always took a long time; our idea was to make the process faster and easier by using software.”
Working with Abbott took OneLook Systems worldwide
Brendan and Pat devised a business plan and were accepted into the Rubicon Centre for its year-long Genesis programme. Unfortunately, this was in 2008, which meant that the journey to success was going to be an arduous one. The turning point came in 2012, when one of their Cork companies, pharma leader Abbott, had a corporate audit covering items such as compliance and health and safety.
“Out of their 80 sites around the world, only the Cork site passed the audit – and that was because they were using OneLook Systems,” says Pat. “That was the turning point for our business. I went to Abbott’s headquarters in Chicago to begin discussions to roll out the system to a number of their sites around the world. After about a year going back and forth, we went into all of their worldwide sites.”
Another turning point for the company was support from Enterprise Ireland, the trade and innovation agency, which enabled them to widen their customer net beyond the pharmaceutical industry.
“Acting on advice from Enterprise Ireland, we hired a marketing team, and they’ve taken our products and created a marketing plan where we solve a problem. That’s allowed us to expand into a much wider range of industries. Before that, we were focused on Permit to Work; but now we have a focus on the contractor journey, and specifically taking the fear away for anyone responsible for contractor health and safety, or work safety on a site. This, then, makes the product, and our company, relevant for any company that has a lot of contractors.”
Unique benefits and excellent customer service lifts OneLook Systems above competitors
This widening of focus has also had the effect of rising above competitors. “We have a lot of competitors in areas that we touch on, but right now, we’re the only company catering for the full contractor journey, from identifying the contractor, to vetting them, to managing their work to following up and making sure that everything’s ready for compliance auditing. That whole process is unique to us, and if a client is already working with a competitor on one aspect of the contractor journey, our software allows us to incorporate the competitor’s product into the overall contractor compliance management system – we simply make sure the whole problem is gone.”
A notable feature of OneLook Systems is that they have a 99% customer retention rate amongst customers who have implemented their product – and this, explains Pat, is down to their emphasis on customer service. “We have the internal mission statement to be the software company people love to work with. With every decision we make, we ask ourselves does this help us to achieve this mission. It’s written on our walls and discussed at every meeting. We’re a global company, yet we’re just 30 people in Cork. Our difference is that we focus on solving a problem, managing the whole contractor journey. Recently we’ve hosted webinars, where our customers discuss and answer questions about our system – we had representatives from Mars, GSK and Abbott. That’s been a real contributor to our success – the companies that we work for have been willing to go to other companies and tell them that our systems really do work, that they really solve the problem. That’s why a good customer success team is the number one priority for growth.”
Today’s automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies are causing significant disruption in customer experience (CX) operations around the world. This digital disruption, including chatbots and natural language processing empowered by AI, is having an enormous impact on customer service delivery.
In Ireland — the call center capital, where over 56,000 people across more than 250 companies work in the CX industry — advancements in technology are seen as an opportunity rather than a threat.
“Never before has disruptive technology been so impactful on business delivery,” noted Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland. “The CX sector is a significant employer in Ireland, and we have a unique opportunity to harness our agile workforce, and our research capability to continue to develop innovative technologies and deliver the next generation of high-quality customer solutions that have the potential to transform how markets and businesses work.”
For good reason, Ireland is globally recognised as a region where complex customer interaction meets technology, resulting in the enhancement of services, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.
Last month, several Enterprise Ireland-supported companies attended Customer Contact Week (CCW) 2019 Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. Formerly known as Call Center Week, CCW is the world’s largest event for CX, contact center and customer care professionals. The companies that attended, Arema, Arise, Interaction, and Zevas are all members of Ireland’s leading CX industry group, The Crios Group. Crios’s mission is to promote and develop the BPO and CX sector in Ireland.
“These companies excel in providing powerful solutions within the customer contact sector,” added Sinnamon. “With a motivated and highly trained workforce along with a high technological environment, Ireland is a prime location for customer solution hubs. Attending events like CCW helps keep our companies at the forefront of their industry.”
A recent document released by IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, and the Customer Contact Management Association (CCMA) titled CX Transformation: a Strategy, Vision and Roadmap 2019 discusses how Ireland has a unique opportunity to strengthen its position as the location of choice for companies looking to expand existing operations or establish new centers. Ireland has continued to be a leading location for CX-related activities due to its highly skilled and motivated multilingual talent base and favorable economic environment.
Capitalising on the global shifts in business models and emerging disruptive technologies, Ireland’s CX workforce can upskill into higher value roles, offering the opportunity to position Ireland as a globally recognised location where complex customer interaction meets technology, resulting in real enhancement of services, efficiency and customer satisfaction.
CX Index, the Dublin-based software company, has announced significant growth in the Finnish market with the addition of its latest customers. Since its initial launch in Finland in October 2017, the Irish company has successfully sold its customer experience management software into ten companies across the financial services, healthcare, utility and retail sectors.
Customers include, the Finnish Centre for Pensions, a government agency; KSOY and ETK, both of which are utility companies; Luona, a healthcare services provider; and Hobby Hall, a leading Finnish retailer.
“The market in Finland has responded very positively to our platform and it is gratifying to note that we have now entered double digits in terms of customer numbers. This growth is set to continue across all Scandinavian markets as we continue to onboard new customers,” said David Heneghan, co-founder and Chief Executive, CX Index.
“While we are always looking at opportunities across the globe, we have experienced value in having a geographic focus. Being able to provide references from local businesses, amplifies the effects that can be gained from positive word of mouth.”
“The Scandanavian market provides a great opportunity for Irish technology businesses,” said Tom Holgersson, Head of Fintech & Financial Services Nordics, Enterprise Ireland. “CX Index is getting tremendous results in Finland and it is of little surprise, as we are hearing very positive feedback about their solution from companies participating at the events where we introduce innovative Irish companies into the Scandinavian market.”
Tom Holgersson, Head of Fintech & Financial Services Nordics, Enterprise Ireland
In March 2019, CX Index announced its expansion into the Canadian market to Holt Renfrew, which is part of the Selfridges Group; ATB Financial, an Alberta-based retail bank; and Loyalty One, a subsidiary of the NYSE-listed Alliance Data, whose AIR MILES programme has more than 11 million active accounts in two-thirds of all Canadian households.
CX Index, the customer experience management software, was established in 2012 in Dublin. It serves customers across a broad range of sectors including retail, financial services and travel. It helps companies capture customer feedback, which is commonly regarded as the metric for customer experience. It integrates the valuable insight with data from a range of third-party sources to provide the actionable information needed to help users to make smarter customer-centric decisions. The company’s clients in Ireland include CarTrawler, Brown Thomas and SuperValu.
Alpha Wireless’s rapid expansion and innovative drive have been praised by Irish Minister of State Mary Mitchell O’Connor at a recent US business event. Speaking at a business dinner in Kansas City, the higher education minister toasted the work Alpha Wireless has been involved in with a major tier-one operator.
The minister, who marked St. Patrick’s Day in the US by celebrating Irish business achievement, said she was particularly delighted to see Alpha Wireless experiencing such significant growth across the United States, and being embraced by household names in the telecommunications sector.
“I look forward to hearing of the future success of Alpha Wireless,” added O’Connor. “And not just here in the US, but across global markets as well.”
Ryan White, the VP of Corporate and Business Development for Alpha Wireless, said he was thrilled with the minister’s recognition of the company as one of Ireland’s leading telecommunications companies, and that the evening highlighted how far the company had progressed over the past decade.
White explained that mobile and fixed wireless service providers face a daunting task of satisfying the growing demand for coverage and capacity while minimizing the cost to serve. The old models of network deployment are no longer sustainable, and Alpha Wireless is addressing this by changing the way wireless networks are built.
“Innovation is a major focus for Alpha Wireless. We have a deep understanding that one size does not necessarily fit all and it is important for us to deliver a solution that fits the specific needs of our clients,” said White. “Having the minister comment on that aspect of our company was important to us.”
Alpha Wireless is an Enterprise Ireland-supported Irish company that designs and manufactures high performance, superior quality antenna solutions. The Irish-based company has offices in Europe, the US, and Australia, and currently exports to 15 different countries.
O’Connor added that Irish companies have a unique approach to partnering with global customers and that the Irish workforce is one of the most flexible and educated in the world. Coupled with a proven track record of meeting global market leader needs, the Irish Advantage is obvious.